"Margaret Thatcher detached the Conservative Party from
"One should remember that enslaving the
families of the kuffar — the infidels — and taking their women as
concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic
A 200 hp V-2 engine in an
carbon-fiber frame for
Hannover, April 1945: Two Sherman tanks rumble into
the square. One has "Fury" scrawled on its gun barrel and Brad Pitt
poking out of the turret. The movie includes a real Tiger tank from
Bovington Tank Museum. One detail is wrong. In WW2 the average age
of a combat soldier was 26 and the cutoff age for the US draft was
38. Pitt is 50.
In the British folk memory,
1940 was the
defining moment when the country stood alone to fight Nazi Germany.
Britain's wartime experience was immortalized in the TV show
with its song
Who do you think you're
kidding, Mr Hitler?
The Zone of Interest
is the best novel Amis has written since The Information.
His fixation on the most violent and debased aspects of humanity
find a commensurate subject in the darkest abominations of the last
century. There are few contemporary novelists who can render
violence and stupidity with such forceful style and intelligence.
Me in Poole High Street
"The question concerning the
role of world Jewry is not a racial
but a metaphysical question."
2014 October 15
Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace
Prize but Pakistani schools are in a desperate state of rot.
Pakistan has over 50 million school-age children. Its constitution
guarantees all of them a free and compulsory education. But almost
half of them, mostly girls, are not attending school. Even at
school, only half the pupils reach the competence levels of kids
years several years younger in other countries. Over half of the
primary schools have no working electricity, over a third have no
drinking water on site, and 2 in 5 don't even have working toilets.
Contracts for schools and teachers afford politicians the
opportunity to distribute patronage.
In my survey of philosophers, almost 3 in 4
said they accepted or inclined to atheism, while fewer than 1 in 6
accepted or inclined to theism. Atheists have a strong case against
God as a scientific hypothesis. Believers can say any concepts of
God fall short of the divine reality.
apparent contradictions in its doctrines. An appeal to mystery is
inevitable. The fundamental revelation is the moral ideal expressed
in the New Testament Christ. Engagement with the practices inspired
by that ideal is the only requirement for being a Catholic.
Islam was once connected with traditions of philosophical reflection
that tempered excesses of blind faith. Such traditions are still
effective in many parts of the Muslim world, but in some places they
have failed and a fanatical mutation has gone out of control.
2014 October 14
Pay is also a token of respect. To deny a
below-inflation 1% to nurses was a calculated provocation. With its
Health and Social Care Act, the government wasted billions in a
chaotic reorganization of the NHS that cabinet ministers now call a
disaster. The current fragmentation of the NHS has set trusts
to compete against each other for income, staff, and patients in a
sham health market. If ordinary laws of the market worked, nurses
should be in a powerful bargaining position. But some in the NHS get
large bonuses, such the John Radcliffe hospital CEO who gets a
£30,000 bonus on top of his £215,000 pay, defended by his local MP: "There should be performance related pay for key people." This
is an affront to other NHS key people and a microcosm of warped
rewards across the UK.
UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt warns that the
ebola outbreak is becoming as serious as the AIDS epidemic.
AR Respect nurses
and pay them.
2014 October 13
The racism behind the UKIP message is
repugnant. Facts: 2.2 million Britons live in continental Europe,
while 2.3 million other EU citizens live here. Some 77% of our EU
migrants work, while 72% of Britons do. EU migrants form 2.1% of UK
welfare recipients. But last year there was a 30% rise in net
migration to Britain to 212,000, fueled largely by migrants from
southern Europe, while 320,000 Brits emigrated, the fewest since
2008. Migrants form 8% of the UK population (10% including dependent
children). Black and Asian ethnic groups form 11% of the population.
UKIP is a protest vote.
2014 October 12
A new poll suggests that 1 in 4 voters would
vote for UKIP at the next general election, to give both Labour and
Conservatives 31% and Liberal Democrats 8%. This could give Labour
253 MPs, Conservatives 187, UKIP 128, Lib Dems 11, and other parties
Martin Wolf says academics and policymakers
displayed ignorance and arrogance in the run-up to the financial
crisis. When crisis struck, major central banks rescued troubled
banks and sustained money supplies, but we got a depression all the
Hyman Minsky argued that periodic financial crises are
a more or less unavoidable feature of capitalism. Borrowers and
lenders become complacent and underestimate the risks of high levels
of debt. Leverage rises year after year. Then something goes wrong.
This is the Minsky moment.
The economics establishment
identified financial crisis with bank runs by depositors. Yet by
2008 depository institutions were no longer the dominant form of
banking. Institutions like money market funds and investment banks
were both unsecured and unregulated. Policymakers convinced
themselves that such innovation was making the system more stable
and efficient. They were wrong.
It is tempting to turn it all
into a morality play. Two reasons to be skeptical:
1 If the secular stagnationists are
right, advanced economies suffer from persistently inadequate
demand. Depression is their normal state, except when spending is
supported by bubbles. So bubbles are good because they prop up
demand. We need policies to support demand on a continuing basis.
2 Even if you believe that financial
excess set the stage for the slump, there was still no good reason
why the slump had to be so terrible. Given low interest rates, the
stimulus could have been bigger and gone on longer. An obsession
with deficits and fiscal austerity deepened and extended the slump.
Debt, shadow banking, international imbalances, and so on helped
set the stage for disaster, but intellectual shifts arguably played
an equally large part in the crisis. Conventional economic analysis
fell short, but policymakers made the situation worse.
Politics is something I've acquired through
growing up in a single-parent family, being on the dole, then being
a drug addict. There's a lot of anarcho-collectivism in the
fellowship around abstinence-based recovery. I want to address the
alienation and sense of despair that you see all around us. It don't
matter to me how much people have a go at me. I'm ready to die for
Karl Marx designed one of the most powerful and
influential economic and social philosophies of recent history.
Regardless of what I do, madness is coming. And I'll be happy to
participate in whatever way I can. But I don't think it will be by
joining an already antiquated and defunct system. I'm not asking for
an invitation to the party. I'm saying the party's over.
AR I won't be voting for him.
Recent US actions aimed at countering sexual
assault reveal little uniformity on how to define rape.
2012, the FBI still considered rape a crime committed solely against
women. For statutory rape, some states set rules for a minimum age
difference between partners. In some states, active resistance is
required for rape, and merely saying no is insufficient. Only 40
years ago, no state allowed husbands to be prosecuted for raping
their wives, and 60 years ago, in some states, sex between a black
man and a white woman was considered rape.
Some see an urgent
need for national standards regarding rape and sexual assault.
2014 October 11
The New York Times
The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize goes to
Malala Yousafzai, 17, and the Indian child rights campaigner Kailash
Satyarthi, 60. The prize committee chairman said it was important
for "a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a
common struggle for education and against extremism" as they share
the $1.1 million prize.
Prime Minister David Cameron says the double
by-election results puts Labour leader Ed Miliband closer to power.
Some Conservatives say Cameron should take advantage of the UKIP
challenge to Labour in the north.
MP Jacob Rees-Mogg: "We
should think about what that means in terms of the UKIP-Conservative
relationship, because the Conservative family could win a majority
on that basis. Otherwise, the only thing we manage is mutually
MP Peter Bone: “If we can get that vote
as one we would have a massive centre-right majority in parliament,
but if we split the vote we could have Labour winning on 31-32% of
The scientific enterprise is often
seen as a large and dispassionate machine in which objective
scientists seek cold facts from experiments. This leaves out the
excitement, awe, and wonder that motivate many scientists.
Curiosity and wonder have driven the scientific enterprise. Changes
in the notion of curiosity from vice to virtue have gone hand in
hand with the development of empirical methods in science. A slow
and gradual honing and growing sophistication of our understanding
is driven by accumulating data enabled by the invention of new
instruments. As empirical evidence accumulates, theories aim at a
more comprehensive explanation that subsumes earlier views.
Two other forces that condition science are serendipity and
ignorance. Scientists continually uncover new facts that confront
them with the extent of their ignorance. Breakthroughs in
understanding are essentially unforeseeable even to a seasoned mind.
Researchers can be held captive by their entrenched intuitions and
refuse to accept new ideas until they are faced with overwhelming
empirical evidence contradicting their views. Blunders are part of
A view of how science actually works
might reduce the misunderstanding and distrust of science.
2014 October 10
Strong surge for UKIP in two by-elections:
In Clacton, Tory defector Douglas Carswell secured a resounding
victory with a 12,404 majority and 60% of the vote. He returns to
the Commons as the first UKIP MP.
In Heywood & Middleton,
UKIP destroyed a Labour majority of 5,971 to come second with 38.7%
of the vote compared with 40.1% for Labour.
2014 October 9
The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis, and J,
by Howard Jacobson, return to the Holocaust:
believes that the subject demands disorientation, reticence, and
confusion. J takes place in a future England, somewhere around the
year 2070. As Jacobson sketches in more of his fictional world, it
becomes clear that it is afflicted by a continual, habitual
violence. Then there are the more pointed and private omens.
Jacobson is imagining an English Holocaust, set to take place
sometime around the year 2020. He has written a horror story about a
Holocaust that changes history and even human nature. The real
horror of the real Holocaust is that it did no such thing.
Amis deliberately circumvents the conventions of Holocaust
writing. Nearly the whole cast of The Zone of Interest are
perpetrators. Amis has written a comedy that happens to be set in
Auschwitz. The protagonists are the administrators of the camp. The
horror is made to bleed through the edges of the story. Amis writes
beautifully and originally about Auschwitz. The book conjures
everyday life there. We see not overt savagery but carefully chosen
moments of pathos and irony. The crime of Auschwitz was to assign
the victims and the perpetrators their roles in an ideological
2014 October 8
Islam in Real Time
Ben Affleck is now being lauded for having
exposed my and Bill Maher's racism, bigotry, and hatred of Muslims.
I say we have to be able to criticize bad ideas, and Islam is the
Mother lode of bad ideas.
Affleck and others imagine that
ISIS is functioning like a bug light for psychopaths by attracting
disaffected young men who would do terrible things to someone,
somewhere, in any case. These disturbed individuals travel to a
foreign desert for the privilege of decapitating journalists and aid
workers. I await an entry in the DSM-VI that describes this
Affleck and others are confused about
Islam. Like many secular liberals, they refuse to accept the
abundant evidence that vast numbers of Muslims believe dangerous
things about infidels, apostasy, blasphemy, jihad, and martyrdom.
And they do not realize that these doctrines are about as
controversial under Islam as the resurrection of Jesus is under
We need honest talk about the link between
belief and behavior. No one is suffering the consequences of what
Muslim extremists believe more than other Muslims.
Is It Is or Is It Ain't?
"President Obama keeps insisting that ISIS is not Islamic. Well,
maybe they don't practice the Muslim faith in the same way he does.
But if vast numbers of Muslims across the world believe — and they
do — that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea
or drawing a cartoon or writing a book or eloping with the wrong
person, not only does the Muslim world have something in common with
ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS."
2014 October 7
Physics Nobel for Blue LED
Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano at Nagoya
University in Japan, and Shuji Nakamura at the University of
California in Santa Barbara, share the 2014 Nobel prize for physics
for developing blue light emitting diodes in the late 1980s. Since
then, the blue LED has transformed the way we light our world, watch
movies, and store data.
LEDs are made from multiple layers of
semiconductor sandwiched together, one with an excess of electrons
and the next with an excess of positively charged holes. Applying a
voltage to the device drives the electrons and holes together into
the filling layer, where they combine to emit light. Its color
depends on the semiconductor material. Gallium nitride doped with
indium has the quantum properties to emit blue light, but it was
hard to make a semiconductor sandwich with a gallium nitride
In 1986, Akasaki and Amano made one by adding an
extra layer to the sandwich. Meanwhile, Nakamura did so by growing a
gallium nitride crystal first at low temperatures and then at higher
temperatures. The trio went on to turn their blue LEDs into blue
lasers, used in Blu-ray players. LED units make more efficient
AR These guys published
their first book on the blue LED with Springer while I was there
working on the physics books.
2014 October 6
Brain Science Nobel Prize
The Nobel prize in physiology or medicine
has been awarded to three scientists who located specialized cells
in the brain responsible for helping us to navigate our world. One
half of the award went to John O'Keefe at University College London
and the other half to the husband and wife team May-Britt and Edvard
Moser, both at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
O'Keefe discovered in 1971 that certain cells in the hippocampus
were only active when an animal was in a particular place in a
certain orientation in its environment. The same combination of
cells was active when the animal visited the same location, but a
different combination was active when visiting another site,
suggesting that the activity of these cells helps the animal build
an internal map of its environment. The Moser team later found
another component of our internal navigation system within the
Robert D. Kaplan
By the year 2000, Asia accounted for 20%
of global military expenditure. Asia's share of arms imports
increased to over 40% of the world total. In 2011, China's defense
budget rose to nearly $100 billion. China is now the world's second
largest military spender.
China has over 60 submarines and
will have around 75 or so in the next few years, slightly more than
the United States. China is outbuilding the United States in new
submarines by 4 to 1 since 2000 and by 8 to 1 since 2005.
2014 October 5
The British Constitution
Constitutional issues keep pushing forth
in the UK: the European Union, the role and composition of the House
of Lords, and the independence referendum in Scotland.
the Westminster Parliament created devolved bodies in Scotland,
Wales, and Northern Ireland. The devolved bodies, unlike the House
of Commons, were to be elected by proportional representation.
The British government now has an English problem. English
Conservative MPs will not support further devolution unless
something is done for England. They propose English votes for
The British are not wholly foolish in regarding
constitutional issues as less important than social and economic
ones. Britain is governed not by logic but by Parliament.
Shaping Virtual Lives
Representations, and Conducts
Krawczyk-Wasilewska, Theo Meder, and Andy Ross
"This is an
interesting and necessary book, which should stand side by side with
Dutch cultural historian Johan Huizinga's book
— Eda Kalmre
issue "Homo Ludens: Describing
Virtual Lives" edited by Mare Kalda,
Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore, 57/2014, 189-190
The Frost Report
It was to become a great joke among writers
that in the final credits of the TV show every week the words
"Written by" were closely followed by the words "David Frost" in
large letters and then, after a slight gap, by the word "and" in
smaller letters and finally, in even smaller letters, the names of a
couple of dozen writers. David was endearingly shameless in matters
such as these.
2014 October 4
No forensic or analytic account of reading can
do justice to the strange interplay between levels of reality we
apprehend when we read deeply. Reading on screen is fundamentally
different. Digital text will bring with it new forms of reading,
learning, memory, and even consciousness.
The book is in
retreat. The relationship between words and revenue is debatable. A
certain kind of expertise was understood to have a value to its
consumers that was both constant and capable of being monetized at a
fixed rate. The web snapped this inelasticity. Follow the money.
Richard Dawkins is an evangelist. He says memes
leap from brain to brain, via a process that can be called
imitation, and he sees this process at work throughout human
culture. But a meme-based Darwinian account of religion is at odds
with the assault on religion as a type of intellectual error. If
Darwinian evolution applies to religion, then religion must have
some evolutionary value.
Science may show that humans are not
and can never be rational animals. Perhaps religion cannot be
eradicated from the human mind. Dawkins is an ideologue of
scientism, the positivistic creed according to which science is the
only source of knowledge and the key to human liberation. Religion
is irrational, and we will all be better off without it. This is his
argument for atheism.
2014 October 3
Anna Della Subin
The American Psychological Association
estimates that 1 in 5 of American men and women are chronic
procrastinators. In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association
declared procrastination a symptom of mental illness. Why not view
procrastination as an act of resistance against the strictures of
time and productivity?
2014 October 2
The Quran presents Abraham as an adherent of
Islam. A primordial faith connects humanity to one God and leads in
turn to Judaism, Christianity, and then historical Islam as
proclaimed by Muhammad. Jewish and Christian communities were
considered often to be imperfect monotheists.
Shia Islam is a
religious tradition in which the presence of the divine through the
Imam provides the path to salvation. The Imam is the Law and the
revelation. Believers follow the path to salvation through their
devotion and obedience to the Imam. Sunni traditions tend to be more
pragmatic about politics.
Integrated Information Theory, developed by
Giulio Tononi, says that
consciousness is a property of complex systems that have a
particular way of interacting with the world. But a digital
simulation would not be conscious.
Consciousness is a
fundamental property of the universe. But it takes a particular type
of hardware to instantiate it. If you were to build a computer in
the appropriate way, like a neuromorphic computer, it could be
People are going to abuse
computer intelligence, blindly maximize for some goal. It will lead
to more and more concentration of power among fewer and fewer
people. I think there is really an existential danger to the
RoboLaw consortium told the European parliament that robots
could act independently if they had the legal status of a
corporation. Driverless cars could reduce accidents by 97%, but
under present legislation the manufacturer could be liable for
accidents. New insurance schemes could address this.
2014 October 1
MIT Technology Review
Robots are safe and smart enough to
work alongside people on BMW production lines. These robots are
increasing productivity and flexibility but they are relatively slow
and lightweight, which makes them safer to work around.
Robots on production lines promise to transform the division of
labor between people and machines. Traditional robots work well but
they are unsafe with anyone nearby. The new robots can automate more
the production process.
The next generation of robots to
work with humans will be faster and more powerful. The sensors and
computer power needed to react quickly and intelligently to safety
risks are now cheap. Mixed teams can be more productive.